Part of the role I have with AAB Consulting allows me to support a selection of young entrepreneurs who are going through rapid phases of growth, two of which are exciting start up drinks brands based in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
The drinks industry, in particular premium spirits, is always one I have enjoyed being involved in, when I met Fergus McGowan from Askival Rum and Alex MacDonald and Struan Mackie from North Point Distillery in January, I knew the work would be interesting. Although two brands, who on the outside might seem similar and perhaps even each other’s competition, the guys behind the scenes are working on carving out specific target markets and have very different approaches to growing their businesses.
The most enjoyable thing about working with young entrepreneurs is their openness to challenge, they know what they want to achieve long term and are willing to put in the hard graft at this early stage. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t take some at times difficult feedback and challenge on their growth choices.
Our conversations tend to have a good balance of commercials and counselling, depending on the week, but to reach the heights and ambitions they have set for their businesses they know they need to be open to challenge from an impartial advisor who cares as much about them individually as their businesses.
Fergus McGowan, Managing Director, Askival Rum, “Sian has been instrumental to us at Askival Rum in finding our place within the market. Acting as a soundboard for our ideas, offering industry advice and asking tough questions when necessary. Throughout the time we have worked together, we have gained tremendous value from our regular calls”.
Alex MacDonald, Co-founder and Commercial Director, North Point Distillery, “Working with Sian and AAB has been an incredible growing experience for both our founding team and our distillery. With grand ambitions for scaling at pace, and an aggressive growth model, Sian was able to not only establish fantastic industry connections for North Point Distillery, she has also created lasting internal processes that we still use in our daily operations. We are incredibly proud of our relationship with Sian and AAB, and we look forward to our work with them as we expand our export markets into the EU and abroad!”
The Scottish drinks market is extremely competitive, however out of the competition has come some amazing collaboration. Something I have been so excited to share is the introduction of new networks with Stretch Social, Independent Drinks Ambassadors and the young entrepreneurs we support.
Stretch Social, owned by Megan Keith and Hannah Flood-Mallinson, is a social media marketing agency with a passion for making disruptive drinks brands create waves in the industry. They live by the mantra that a great marketing strategy leads with social first. So, whether brands need a standalone campaign to drive sales or want support with their wider marketing activity, the team understand how to get drinks brands where they need to be.
Independent Drinks Ambassadors, launched in 2020 by Luke Crighton, has been created to provide both a service and professional network to small, start up and enterprising drinks brands searching for their place in the UK on-trade. The on-trade is an incredibly competitive and saturated environment where all innovators deserve a chance to succeed. ISA helps lay foundations for sales, training and activation with these brands. The clients AAB Consulting support are the perfect brands that ISA was designed to work with. Through the network created, these relationships have evolved from introductions, to consultations, and further to mutual long term working relationships.
For the types of businesses mentioned, operating in a hugely competitive environment, collaboration across the board can only benefit and accelerate their growth. As our work develops, we will continue to establish connections through our own networks to support this industry. We are thankful to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the IMPACT30 programme for giving us the opportunity to work with these young entrepreneurs.